review by Angela Theresa Egic
Once again, I entered the American Theatre of Actors, Inc. This time, greeted again, by the owner/founder James Jennings. My apologies to not taking the time to recognize or get the name of the box office greeter last time. As many have and will continue to do, we often pass by the people who work, volunteer, and keep the magic of theatre alive. In my last review, “the man at the box office, was indeed James himself.
This time around, the two plays were in the smaller theatre. A little space with seats to the south, then across the tiny stage area (the floor) were empty seats to the north. The tiny audience filled in the south seats. Please do not trust my sense of direction. The seating may be west and east or some other directions.
The first one act was titled “Wild Duck in Little Neck” by Meny Beriro. Meny himself was there. I wish I could say I spoke to him. I did not.
The story was about a man turning 50 who is a hoarder. Upon seeing Gordon Rothman (Jay Rubin)–who is a Stevie Nicks/Yankees devotee and the father of an unseen son (unseen), with some sort of special needs—I was impressed to see a person of middle-age being the primary character. Immediately, Robert Crafford (Craig) enters, also of similar age, enters as the best friend about to confront Jay about being an adult and to stop living off his son’s money to re-live his youth over and over.
The diverse opinions of each man were moving in the hands of these fine actors. And both men having strong points about what do we accept as we age and what should we give up, and what we can keep. Things, people, hobbies and obsessing over aging rock stars. Or finding our own way, and what to do with the rest of our lives by setting our adult child free to be and getting rid of that which no longer serves anyone.
A bit of melancholy just from the storyline and being older was there. Particularly, being a theatre person in the age range. The actors did keep me there, engaged. I could feel the pain of Jay, having no desire to let go of his things or his adult son; and being, or having convinced himself he and his son are happy. Mostly by never throwing away anything, in a way, trying to be who he was and not accept responsibility. And Craig doing the right thing(s) and being a responsible adult for both his friend’s son and for his friend.
Of course, the basic set, for the sake of the story is rather neat, in this reviewer’s opinion, for a hoarder’s place. The bins could have been fuller, perhaps, and maybe a bit more stuff to avoid on the floor. As a theatre person and the safety of the actors, the implied messiness of the place instead of actual messiness, was understandable for the sake of allowing our actors to carry the story in words and deed.
At times, my only note was Robert Crafford, at times, could have been even more fed up with Gordon Rothman. A few moments it appeared the stakes were not quite as high as it could be.
The next play, “The North Forty”, by James Jennings himself. I found the set interesting as it was pages of the newspaper in various places. As Amy Losi (Mary) in her scrubs and a code entered to clean the room, we know we are in a hospital room or soon to figure out, a nursing home. The noisy entrance, also very loud door slam, of James C. Gavin (Melvin Harper) as the angry elderly man who is overly woke about the world today and so very angry about it all! What energy in a man with a cane. It was perfect and delightful. Bent over and putting all his anger in his words and his elderly actions.
James G. is a consummate actor, and I would say each and every time he said “No!” Which he said a lot, and all his opinions were just perfection for the role and for the play. Between Amy and James G.s banter, it was lively.
There was moments Amy could have picked up more intensity. Yet, as a calm nurse, keeping the very angry James G. off the rafters (if he could have gotten on them), she was the voice of reason throughout the play and it worked.
The grandson entered a bit late, in my opinion, which would be my review that the play stayed too long with the main characters, and complaining about the current world problems.
Jonathan Gregory Power (Morgan) seemed good, but his hair covering his face, especially his lovely eyes, took away a lot of his role. I really wanted to see his character, the frustration and hope and all the things his character was striving to get from his “Gramps”. I could hear him and his movement, bodily, was wonderful as a the only younger person in this world. I just could not see his face very much. The long hair is appropriate for the type of person he was portraying; maybe push it to the side (mousse or gel) to see him.
It was really wonderful to see, as noted, us older actors have roles written for our generation, and topics we face. I recommend it, should they extend the run, to see them both. And bring your parents or grandparents and open up the topics we are facing today.
The Baby Boomers, which I am proud to be in the tail end of, are still the largest group today, and we are living longer, are not always represented so well. Both plays really did capture what we are all facing, whether we are the Baby Boomer or the caregivers or family of them.
It is the 47th anniversary of the American Theatre of Actors (ATA) and an incredible space. Everyone who loves and supports theatre needs to go there! I had the pleasure to talk with James Jennings afterwards, and whether you’re an actor, playwright, or other theatre devotee; he’s your man. He has space there; he has opportunities there.
Let’s keep on supporting theatre!
Meny Beriro playwriting has been awarded and his directing was superb. All the actors were perfectly cast.
James Jennings direction and playwrighting and producing, well, he’s a legend in every way. I look forward to working with him if I am so lucky!